A mini getaway: We share our family travel itinerary and how we saved money along the way

Ever need a quick getaway? 

Something to reactivate your adventure muscles. A trip to give you some much needed margin in your busy, to-do list saturated life. 

We spent a weekend in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg last month. 

We drove in on Saturday, spent the night, and left Sunday evening. 

Why so quick?

We opted for that plan for two reasons:

  1. The kids were finishing a kid's camp that week in Nashville, and Friday night was a big family show where they got to show off some dance moves for mom and dad. We couldn't miss that!
  2. We wanted more money to spend on activities, which meant that staying two nights in a hotel (leaving Friday until Sunday) would have eaten up a lot of our activity budget. 

How long was the drive?

Our minivan and the restless underaged, backseat passengers made the drive to Pigeon Forge from Nashville in 4 hours.


One of the hardest parts of this trip was that we lost an hour somewhere along the way, going from Central to Eastern time zone. On the way back, we found that pesky hour, like a lost dollar bill, somewhere along I-40.

Crazy how that works.

So here's what our itinerary looked like:

(PS...next blog post, we'll review each of the activities we did, as well as those we wished we had time for! Each activity is linked to its website if you'd like to know more about it. This is just an overview of what a quick getaway looks like for us.) 


Leave Nashville early in the morning, around 8 am

Hit a drive thru for breakfast and coffee 

Lunch and snacks on the road (packed from home)

Arrive in Pigeon Forge, check into hotel, unload car, let natives run

Go to Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg

Visit Ripley's 5D Moving Theater

Lumberjack Feud Dinner Show to finish the evening



Breakfast in the hotel


Outdoor Gravity Park

Fruit and snacks in the car

Dollywood Splash Country

Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show at 5pm

Head home, kids asleep five minutes after leaving town

Quick stop at Walmart for fruit and snacks on the way home


Biggest money savers?

  1. Opting for one night at a hotel, instead of two.
  2. Booking a room at a hotel that included a breakfast buffet
  3. By arranging activities that included meals, we eliminated extra restaurant bills. We ended up timing dinner shows around when we were the hungriest. For example, on Sunday, we went to an early dinner show (5pm) rather than a late one (8pm). Because we had snacks instead of a big lunch that day, by five o'clock, we were ravenous. The timing of our dinner show was perfect! And the dinner was all-you-can-eat, which was even better! (Sidenote: dinner shows can be pretty pricey if you don't have a coupon. Look for deals! They're out there.)
  4. We brought a variety of non-perishable snacks from home that could stay in the car the entire weekend. Things like, granola bars, crackers, pepperoni slices, cookies, nuts, pretzels, Pirate's Booty, etc. These were lifesavers for us. Not only did it save us time (we didn't have to find a place to eat, stop, and then wait in line), but it also saved us money in the long run.

So, was it worth it?

The weekend was jam packed, filled to the brim. And I have to admit, we were a little worn on Monday morning.

But sometimes, you need to spend a weekend stockpiling laughter and adventure, shaking up the monotony of life, and reconnecting with the people you love.

If being a little tired on Monday is part of that deal, it's a small price, isn't it? 

Because, who's kidding whom? We're all busy people...you'll be exhausted with life and work activities by Wednesday anyway! What's a couple days earlier?

Might as well have great travel memories to boot.



Do you put off mini weekend trips because you feel they're too short to really enjoy?